Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 39 Steps

I'm two days late on my birthday rubric, but here goes:

25 Years Ago
I was fourteen. I hate to say this, but I think I messed up last year in my eagerness to tell my Tina Turner tale. I think that was my fourteenth birthday. For my thirteenth birthday, I had a slumber party, about which I remember four things:

Inspired by Martha Plimpton in her Calvin Klein ad, I had just had all of my ill-advised perm cut off in an edgy short haircut.

I wanted to get one of those packages of individual cereal boxes for breakfast, but my mother felt that the other mothers would judge her for serving cereal and made pancakes instead.

I was wearing black and white dolphin shorts and a white sleeveless top with lots of complicated flaps and lacing.

The next day there was a picnic for the town's 60th anniversary, which helped me place this memory more accurately.

Half My Life Ago
I was nineteen and a half. I had just had one of the worst days of my life--on which I did not get into the eating club of my choice--followed by one of the best, on which I was "sung into" my beloved a capella group. I did eventually become a member of that club, although the question in retrospect is, was it the club of my choice? In January of 1990 I started dating a boy, a much sought-after and very nice boy. My relationship with him caused me to expend a lot of energy every day pretending to be someone I was not. I did this for his benefit, but he was not usually around to see it. Yes, my boyfriend was very busy, so busy that I had dinner with R. almost every night during this period. And luckily, R. was also in Eating Club of Choice and that's The Rest of the Story.

That semester I took a course in British Women's Fiction. When it came time to write a paper I met with Professor Deborah Nord and told her I wanted to write about Story Of An African Farm by Olive Schreiner. She suggested that I compare it to Doris Lessing's Martha Quest*, and I told her that I hated Martha Quest. In the paper, I explained why Martha Quest was a totally unbelievable and unsympathetic character because of her ability to believe mutually exclusive things about herself and her life simultaneously (whereas Lyndall in SOAAF believes in nothing). A few weeks later my boyfriend broke up with me and I realized Martha, c'est moi.**

*Incidentally, why do teachers and professors do this? My junior year high school English teacher made me change my term paper topic and then commented on the final draft that I didn't seem very excited about my subject.

**After the breakup, my mother commented, "I'm so relieved. I thought you were going to marry him, take a menial job to support him through medical school, and then end up divorced."

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